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Waiters in India: The Value of Tipping

August 28, 2009

Waiters simply suck in India. I blame the lack of tip incentive. Although some minimal tipping is considered proper, it’s not socially embarrassing to un-tip in Indian restaurants. And subsequently there is no reason to actually perform the very menial, very difficult task of waiter-ing very well. Don’t get me wrong. There is always the required, hyper obsequiousness (ass-kissing). He will bend over and bow while taking your order, and this servility becomes the measure of good service and that you are in a good (read expensive) restaurant.

Waiters in India will regularly interrupt conversations you are having; forget to bring condiments; bring your dinner/lunch friend his/her food, but not yours; aggressively try to sell you promotional crap. And the most annoying, look and walk away AFTER he has seen you wave frantically at him because you are starving and need food to continue living.

I was in a super-fancy restaurant somewhere in Residency once with this clearly hi-fi, big-money lookin’ crowd, and the waiter stood and argued with Mr.Big Shot about which wine was best. Argued. Can you imagine? At last Mr.Big Shot was like, “Why are you arguing with me? Just bring me what I asked for“. Which was sort of true. I am sure the waiter was trying to show off his wine knowledge, but it was such a stupid thing to do. And no, Mr.Big Shot did not tip him.

But India is weird. In one local, very popular restaurant/coffeeshop I go to all the time, the very hefty owner of the restaurant yelled at the staff for keeping me waiting. But the next day, there was absolutely no noticeable improvement. I still had to sit and wait for some 10 minutes to order (even though all the waiters recognize me by now). (And before you ask, yes I TIP). But the other week, I happened to be in there having coffee with a white woman. The speed with which service was provided gave me whiplash. And to add insult to injury, they brought out HER coffee and fries out first, and then mine (even though I had ordered first). Seriously. It was pretty irritating. And I did my small part in changing the tipping culture by chucking a paisa into the bill bowl. It backfired. He said thank you.

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